NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 23 – August 10, 2018
Air Temp: 25.c,
Visibility 10 nautical miles,
Wave height 3 foot
Spotlight: ENS Chelsea Parrish
During my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience, I have truly been inspired and impressed by how many important roles of our operation on the Oregon II are fulfilled by females. One of the most important crew members is Ensign (ENS) Chelsea Parrish who is one of our OOD’s. or Officers of the Deck. I think her story will inspire my daughter and female students to aim high for their future!
As a young child, Chelsea was inspired by her father who spent 20 years in the US Navy. She loved hearing stories about his role working aboard Navy submarines, and all of the interesting things one must do to work below the sea. After high school she attended the Savannah State University, in Georgia. She was able to train aboard the R/V Savannah where she learned about biological, chemical, physical, and geological oceanographic studies in estuaries and continental shelf waters in the southeastern US Atlantic and Gulf coasts. She earned her Bachelor degree in Biology, and received her Masters degree in Marine Science. While she didn’t need her Masters to get into her field, she knew that in the long run it would put herself above others in a highly competitive field and would be an advantage in the future.
A year into graduate school, she attended a conference, where she learned about the NOAA Corps. The NOAA Corps is one of the seven federally uniformed services of the United States, and is made up of scientifically and technically trained and commissioned officers. It was there that she met Lt. Commander Adler, whom she kept in contact with. Just a short time later, she was called for an open opportunity to join the NOAA Corps. She had 17 weeks of real world training at the Coast Guard Academy for Officer Candidate School (OCS). It was there that she learned how NOAA is different than the US Navy. The Navy focuses on various military actions, while NOAA Corps focus is on science and their motto is: “Science, Service, Stewardship”. It was then Chelsea knew she came to the right place to fulfill her professional goals.
After graduating from training, she earned her Officer of the Deck qualification aboard Oregon II in September, 2017. She will be aboard completing her assignment in January, 2019. Chelsea has many important duties to perform on the ship, including steering the ship. This entails following the chart that the CO (Commanding Officer, or Captain) has planned out to fulfill the mission of the ship. In our case the mission is long line fishing of Red Snapper and Sharks at many stations along the southeastern US and the Gulf of Mexico. While the CO is off duty, she must keep him informed of any changes that need to made to the Navigation trackline to ensure there is a safe navigational watch during her shift, which is normally 4 hours at a time.
The most common thing to happen that happens to create a change in course is foul weather, but there are many unforeseen events as well. Chelsea must study reports from the US Coast Guard which let her know various events happening in the region we are sailing. This can be other ships performing science missions, merchant navy ships of other countries in the area, oil drilling operations, or in our case yesterday, live ammunition firing exercises by the US Navy.
Chelsea is also the environmental compliance officer aboard the ship, and she must follow specific rules set up by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to ensure Oregon II is environmentally responsible while at sea. She must be sure there aren’t any issues with fuel, garbage, or any other foreign substance being put in the ocean while at port, or at sea. She also keeps a recycling log to track all activity and incidents that occur. Chelsea also runs the ship store and keeps track of all the items to be sold to the crew and volunteers aboard the ship.
Finally, Chelsea is the go- to rescue swimmer aboard Oregon II, and is the first to jump into the ocean if there is someone overboard to be retained from our ship, or another at sea near us. I saw her in action during our drills at the beginning of our trip and I was impressed at how quickly the crew launched our rescue boat, so Chelsea could rescue our life ring that acted as our “person overboard”. She also took a 3 week class to get certified as a NOAA working scuba diver. This certification allows her to be in the ocean to find, and/or fix any issues we have with the ship while at sea that can’t be fixed from the deck or rescue boat. She is certified to dive down to 130 feet below the surface.
It certainly is impressive how much Chelsea has accomplished in her 28 years. I hope this post inspires all my students, but especially the girls to go out into the world and do anything they can dream of, as that is exactly what Chelsea did. When her time aboard Oregon II is over, Chelsea plans to be a Cetacean Photogrammetry Specialist in La Jolla, California. She will be getting to get her FAA drone license to fly hexacopter drones from ships. Her duties will be to find, count and track marine mammals such as seals, dolphins, and whales. She said she loves helping NOAA fulfill their mission of helping marine animals and data collecting to further the study of these creatures and helping ensure their survival in the future.